HC Deb 21 May 1924 vol 173 cc2279-307

I beg to move in page 2, line 22, after the word "instituted" to insert the words after the passing of this Act in respect of any claim not made before the thirty-first day of August, nineteen hundred and twenty-two. I make no apology for having put down this Amendment and the other Amendments which stand in my name, which substantially involve the same point The question is from what date should the Bill operate. According to the speech of the Minister on the Second Reading, it was intended to operate as from the moment when the Court of Appeal decided the milk case in favour of the plaintiffs and against the Crown. The Minister said again and again that if the case was not reversed by the House of Lords, he was prepared to introduce a Bill to nullify the effect of that decision.

I will not argue as to the unconstitutional nature of this legislation. All I am concerned with is that I am anxious that the Crown should not go on adding to unconstitutional legislation by limiting such claims as might survive in a way which means taking advantage of their own wrong. I say that deliberately, and as I stated yesterday before the Standing Committee, times have come to a strange pass when the House of Commons is told that they are to take a thing or leave it, and on this occasion that they have to take this Bill just as and when and in such terms as the Government are pleased to propose. The position of the Government is stronger since they can quote the present occupants of the Front Opposition Bench as having promoted the same kind of legislation in a previous Parliament. It is unfortunate that a Coalition, a most unwholesome method of government, should have set an unwholesome example which has had to be followed by its successors.

My Amendment proposes to raise the vital question which is the one question, above all others, upon this Committee stage, what is the date from which claims should be barred? The Courts said it should be March, 1922, and an Indemnity Act was passed in 1922 or the latter part of the Session 1921, which provided that no claim should be made against the Crown after the conclusion of the War, that is to say, after the 31st day of August, 1922. That is the date which I wish to insert in the Bill. The Committee will recollect that the Minister spoke about £18,000,000 being involved. He was challenged as to that amount, and it is in fact true that when you examine the White Paper it shows that the number of claims which have been put forward are infinitely less.

In respect of claims arising from the Ministry of Shipping with which I am particularly concerned they do not amount to any more than £81,020. Those claims were put in before the date which I am suggesting should be inserted in this Clause. It is true that there are other claims arising from other Departments, but for the most part they are barred. It will be recollected that a case was cited in which it was held that no claims after the expiration of 31st August, 1922, could succeed, and in the Bristol steamship case the action was dismissed under the Indemnity Act. Therefore no action can arise in respect of any matter in which a claim was not made before the 31st August, 1922. The words are: No proceedings whatever shall be instituted. There are three methods of putting forward a claim against the Crown. There was before the War a compensation case that was taken as early as February, 1922, well within the period of the Indemnity Act. Not being content with these proceedings the claimants issued a writ on the 5th of July, 1922, well within the period, and finally they presented a Petition of Right on the 14th of July. It has been held, and I do not suppose that it will be challenged in this House, that there is a technical meaning to the word "institute" in relation to legal proceedings. It means sealing the writ and the sealing of the Petition of Right Application for a fiat to the Home Office has to be made before a Petition of Right can be sealed by the Central Office of the High Court of Justice in a suit against the Crown. On the 7th of July, 1922, the advisers of the Marshal Shipping Company asked the Home Office for the usual fiat "let right be done" to be fixed to enable them to institute these proceedings.

Will the Committee really believe that notwithstanding all the efforts that could possibly be made in order to get that fiat issued and the petition sealed, it was not given until February, 1924, for an application which was dated the 7th of July, 1922? I am sorry to say there are too many of these cases arising out of the War claims in which the authorities, I care not which Departments, have played with these applicants very much in the same way as a cat plays with a mouse, and in many cases they have not succeeded in getting their case before the proper tribunal which has jurisdiction.

Take the case of the Marshal Shipping Company in relation to their writ. They issued their writ. I may remind hon. Members that the Board of Trade consists of a number of conglomerated people of whom the Archbishop of Canterbury is one. Of course, the solicitors shuddered at having to serve the Archbishop of Canterbury with a writ, and consequently they served the only person whom they reasonably could serve, and that was the Permanent Secretary to the Board of Trade.

One would have thought that if the Government of the day or the Board of Trade were anxious to get this question decided upon its merits they would not have raised a purely technical point of law, but nevertheless they raised the question that the writ was not properly served, and that the whole proceedings fell to the ground on that account, and they succeeded. Here I would like to quote the satirical observations made in this connection by Lord Justice Scrutton in relation to the discharge of the action and the dismissal of the proceedings because the writ was held to be improperly served. He said: This appeal from the judgment of Mr. Justice Rowlatt raises a question in my view of very considerable difficulty on the language of some not very clearly worded Acts of Parliament and Orders in Council. I personally feel that the whole question of proceedings against Government Departments is in a very unsatisfactory state. I feel that it is of great public importance that there should be prompt and efficient means of calling in question the legality of the action of Government Departments who, owing to the great national urgencies of the War, have been inclined to take, and I think are still inclined to take, prompt action which they consider necessary in the interests of the State without any nice consideration of whether it is legal or not, and I hope that the Committee which is considering the question of proceedings against the Crown will be able soon to do something to give the subject more effective remedies against Government Departments than he has at present. But, of course, this Court is not here to settle what the law ought to be, this Court is here to settle what the law is, if it can. Then the learned Judge goes on to say: The third question, which is one of service, I have already dealt with. I only wish to say this more, that in view of the extreme difficulty of this case, and of the importance that Government Departments should not put unnecessary obstacles in the way of subjects who may have good claims, I should very much regret if any obstacle was put in the way of a Petition of Right of this nature; that you shall only have a Petition of Right if you abandon all alternative claims. And yet the granting of the fiat was held up upon the excuse put forward that they must first withdraw the claim which was pending before the War Compensation Court. Lord Justice Scrutton proceeded to say: I think that is a very regrettable position for a Government Department, or for the Government, to take up. For these reasons the appeal failed, and that shows the difficulty this particular company have had, and I am only giving one instance which I know can be multiplied in regard to the difficulty these claimants have in getting before the proper tribunal to determine their case, and they were prevented by a number of questions of that sort. Eight days ago, on the 13th of this month, an application was made to the Law Courts in the matter of this claim of the Marshal Shipping Company, founded upon the petition of right in connection with which the fiat was so tardily given, to expedite the hearing of the case in order that judgment might be obtained. I will not, because I recognise that there are others who are to follow me, attempt to read the shorthand notes of the application and the observations of the learned Judge, except that, so fine were the arguments put forward by the junior counsel representing the Crown, that the Judge was at last, I might almost say betrayed, or at any rate induced, to make the following statement: Your point is that all your tactical steps taken on behalf of what I call the defendants occurred before the launching of this petition?"— to which Counsel replied— I respectfully dissent from the word 'tactical.' I am not here to defend the Home Secretary and what he does in advising the Crown. I also submit that your Lordship cannot decide on that point. Later on, counsel was obliged again to say: I am not here to defend other Departments I do not know. No doubt that course seemed best to them in advising the Crown. I am not here to defend them. Ultimately, the learned Judge suggested that the Attorney-General should be approached in order to fix an early date. At the conclusion of the hearing, Counsel for the Crown asked for the costs of the application, but he did not get them. I could multiply these instances, and even in this particular case I could, by referring to correspondence, show how this company has struggled for upwards of two years to get their cause before the tribunal that was able to hear it. I am not suggesting that the present Attorney-General, who has only come recently into office, had anything to do with it, but the truth is that the Attorney-General's alleged convenience was made again and again the ground for not agreeing a day upon which these cases should be heard. As I have said, I exclude the present Attorney-General, but they are all the same. Whether Governments or individuals, they are all tarred with the same brush. The Attorney-General's predecessors are the persons against whom I make this particular charge that, over and over again, these causes stood over because of the alleged convenience of the counsel for the Crown, and, in the end, these people have not been able to get any redress at all.

The burden of my Amendment is this: I am speaking of when the claim was made, not of when it was instituted, because, as I have pointed out to the Committee, and have, I hope, established, the institution of the claim means the sealing either of the writ or of the petition, and where the petitioner was wholly at the mercy of a public Department, and that public Department has wantonly and deliberately prevented him from qualifying and putting in his writ, it ought not to be permitted to take advantage of its own wrong. This Amendment, if it be agreed to, will preserve the claims in so far as they are within the Indemnity Act, and will lay it down that any claim made—not instituted—before the 31st August, 1922, is a claim which ought to be permitted to go forward for trial, and, when the trial has taken place, ought to be admitted as a bona fide claim to be discharged by the Government. I desire to say only one word more. A case has already been tried which was commenced later than the case of the Marshal Shipping Company, and I hold in my hand particulars furnished by the Board of Trade of the dates when the petition was lodged and when the fiat was granted. In the case of the Marshal Shipping Company, the petition was received by the Law Officers' Department on the 2nd August, 1922, and it is stated here that— The fiat which was first produced on the 6th October, 1922, was granted on an undertaking by the suppliants to abandon proceedings in respect of the same claim before the War Compensation Court on the 17th January, 1924. That was the very thing upon which Lord Justice Scrutton said they ought not to insist. But in the case of Messrs. T. and J. Brocklebank, Limited, the petition was lodged on the 19th September, and the claim was made long before that, namely, according to the White Paper, on the 14th July. The petition was actually received by the Law Officers' Department on the 19th September, and the fiat was granted on the 2nd September—a very substantial lapse of time. The Brocklebank case has gone through for trial, and the result has been against the Crown. The Crown are appealing. I aim informed that an undertaking was given by a letter of the 16th January, 1924, sent by the solicitor of the Board of Trade to the solicitors of the Equinox Steamship Company, Limited, that they would be bound by the decision given in the Brocklebank case; so that that is another case which is well within the limit proposed to be inserted in this Clause. I am also informed that a like letter was given by the solicitor of the Board of Trade to the liquidator of the Marshal Shipping Company; so there has been, apparently, a deliberate promise that the case of the Brocklebank Company should bind the cases of the Marshal Shipping Company and of the Equinox Steamship Company. If that be so, one might ask for a pro forma attachment for the petitioners in both those cases. I ask, for the honour of the House of Commons and of this country, that, when retrospective legislation of an unconstitutional character has to be accepted by the House, the House should be very slow in extending it beyond what is absolutely necessary, and, inasmuch as a period has been fixed by the Indemnity Act, I venture to hope that this Committee will take a strong view of the case, and will say that, in so far as the claims were made—not instituted—before the 31st August, 1922, those claims shall be treated as valid, and the Government shall discharge their obligations with regard to them.


This Amendment raises a very definite and distinct point of considerable constitutional importance, but it is not, I think, a point that we need discuss at any very great length to-day, because it has already been discussed twice in the House. I put down on the Paper a series of Amendments which, I believe, would have had exactly the same effect as this one, and, although this is the third time of asking, I do not wholly despair of persuading the Committee to accept this Amendment, nor am I without some hope that the Government themselves may be disposed to modify their view to meet it. I think the House decided against this Amendment when it was raised on the Financial Resolution, and practically decided against it when they voted on the Amendment which I moved on the Second Reading, not so much because they wished to indulge in this retrospective legislation—which I believe is abhorrent to all Members of the House—as because the President of the Board of Trade alarmed them by the large figure which he mentioned as being involved in the Amendment and in the passing of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said, I think on the Financial Resolution, what I think very much impressed the House—and it is borne out by the White Paper—that, unless the Bill is passed, the Treasury stand to lose anything up to £18,500,000. I think it has been that statement that has made the House hitherto decline to face the exact issue raised by this Amendment.

I submit that that statement is wholly inaccurate. I do not think that the Attorney-General will for a moment bear out the statement of the President of the Board of Trade that there is any sum of that kind involved. The only sum of money involved, and the only claims that fall to be considered, are, I submit, those claims which were lodged within the period provided by the Indemnity Act. My right hon. Friend, the Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) gave the date of that Act as 1922. He had forgotten that the Indemnity Act was passed in 1920, and it gave notice that in respect of all claims against the Government or against any officials for acts done during the War, an indemnity was granted, except in the case of such claims as were lodged within 12 months of the termination of the War. That date, namely, twelve months after the termination of the War, had not yet been fixed when the Indemnity Act was passed; it was left to be fixed by an Order in Council, and the date ultimately fixed as the official termination of the War was the 31st August, 1921. That gave suitors and claimants until the 31st August, 1922, to lodge any of these claims, and here I want to submit to the Government a point that was not dealt with in the earlier Debates.

The Indemnity Act, when it fixed the date within which claims might be brought, practically said to suitors and claimants in this country, "If you have any claim against the Government, bring it within 12 months after the termination of the War, or your claim will be barred." It was like executors advertising that bills must be presented within a certain time or they would not be met. It was an invitation to people in this country who had been aggrieved by the action of Departments or Ministers to lodge their claims within that period, and I really am surprised that the very Government which passed that Indemnity Act actually proposed a War Charges (Validity) Bill, which blocked claims which had arisen even after the Indemnity Act had been passed. That is not the way in which Parliament should handle claims by the subject. The Indemnity Act is passed, and the date is fixed within which claims must be lodged. Those claims are lodged, and the Department, finding their actions challenged, draft a War Charges (Validity) Bill, which is to block those very claims. The President of the Board of Trade appears to be under some apprehension lest the whole £18,500,000 may be involved. I have no such anxiety, nor do I think the Attorney-General has any such anxiety, but, if the right hon. Gentleman feels that anxiety, let the Government accept this Amendment and pass the Bill. That, at any rate, will bar all these undefined and vague charges My reason for feeling certain on this point—I have no claim to pronounce on any point of law—is the High Court decision which was delivered on the very day on which the Financial Resolution was being discussed in this House.

7.0 P.M.

A claim was made after the 31st August, 1922—a petition of right. It came before the High Court, and the Judge ruled that the petition was not lodged within one year from the termination of the War, and therefore it was too late. I appeal to the Attorney-General to tell us whether, in his opinion, that case does not really govern all these cases and that no possible claim can arise against any Government Department in connection with any of those acts committed during or immediately after the War. The purpose of the Amendment is to secure that in those cases a legal decision shall be given. Where a legal decision has been given, it shall stand; where it has not been given, it shall proceed to a decision and the Government abide by it. I cannot find out precisely what amount of money is involved. From my point of view, that is not very important. As a matter of fact, I do not think the sum reaches £100,000. I am confident it cannot reach £250,000, and I submit that we ought not to pass retrospective legislation. Large or small, I submit that this claim should not be barred. If the sum at stake be small, the principle is a great one. Is it not most unwise and unjust for this House to intervene in the middle of legal proceedings and block the subject from the legal redress he has sought. If the Department broke the law, they will be brought to Court. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and the right, hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade, joined together in regard to this Amendment. They both urged, "It is all very well, the claimants are small in number, and the amount involved may not be large." "But," said the right hon. Gentleman opposite, "all of us brought pressure to bear upon the claimants not to proceed with their cases, because we were going to pass a War Charges Validity Bill." "And," says the President of the Board of Trade to-day, "I cannot do justice to your claims, because there are those who would have had a claim if they had not been induced not to put it forward." I recognise the fact that there are such people in this country. I am sorry for them.

The right hon. Gentleman (Sir P. Lloyd-Greame) has just come in. His argument was that we could hardly do justice to the people whose claims would be considered under this Amendment because of those other people in this country whom he, and other Ministers, had impressed with the fact that the late Government intended to bring in a War Charges Validity Bill and to pass it into law, and that therefore they should refrain from taking legal proceedings. There is a good deal of force in that argument. I am sorry for those people who were induced by the blandishments of the right hon. Gentleman to refrain from having recourse to the law. It would be a very evil day for this country if it were to be said that the word or promise of a Minister is the same thing as the law. The pledge of a Minister is a very different thing from an Act of Parliament. It by no means follows that because a pledge is given, any attempt will be made to fulfil that pledge. Still less is a claimant justified in treating promises to bring in a Bill as equal to the Bill being passed, and that therefore they must stop their proceedings because of the intention of the Government. I am sorry for the people who were deceived by the promises of the Government. It must be admitted that, looking at the experience of politics and life in this country, they are very imprudent people who treat pledges and promises of Ministers as if they were Acts of Parliament. All Ministers think that they are there for life and that they cannot be dispensed with. As a matter of fact, Ministers are the creatures of a day. They are here one day and gone another, and to treat their pledges and promises as if they were in fact law is really not ordinary common sense.

Therefore, I submit to the Committee that it is no good reason for not allowing these cases to go forward to a decision that, but for the promise of the passing of this Bill, there would have been more claims of this kind to consider. What we have before us is a demand from the Government that we shall deprive claimants of their legal and constitutional redress, and for no reason except that there are some others who might also have claimed redress and have not done so. I think that is a wholly unreasonable course for the Government to take, and I hope it will not pass this retrospective legislation with no great cause. I have no particular sympathy that I know of with the suitors. I do not know many detailed cases such as the hon. and learned Gentleman stated. Some of the claimants, I believe, are brewers. I am not likely to stand up to advocate their claims. I am advocating the claims of justice, whoever it may be, whether shipowners, brewers, or milk distributors who had a real grievance against the Government and who brought their actions. I think the House ought to do justice to them and not intervene in the cases between the Courts and the suitors.

The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Patrick Hastings)

I cannot help feeling that at the moment the Committee must be in a considerable state of doubt and, certainly, under a serious misapprehension with regard to one or two of the matters underlying this Amendment. I do not propose to go into the merits or the demerits of the whole of this Bill. It has been debated twice, and I do not think any useful purpose would be served by going through it again. I want to point out what this Amendment means. The suggestion underlying it is that there should be a line drawn which should be precisely the same as that of the Indemnity Act, and the criticism which has been put forward by two hon. Members is that, under the Indemnity Act, all claims brought forward after a period of one year from the expiration of the War are already barred. That is a very unfortunate and a very misleading argument to put forward. I am sorry my right hon. and learned Friend (Sir H. Nield) should have put it forward. He was the counsel in the case. He and I were opposed to each other. They were cases of great difficulties. I will be very careful to say no more than I need, but I very seriously warn the Committee that if they think that that point has been decided for all time, they are running a very grave risk indeed. Both cases were decided by the same Judge. He was in such doubt about his decision—the points taken were not the same in each case—and without giving away any further information I may say that, in my view, there are at least two other points which might be raised in similar cases and which might very seriously affect the decision. I am prepared to say this: If cases of that sort were to go to the Court of Appeal or to the House of Lords, in my opinion, either of the parties would not be surprised to find either or both those Courts, in turn, reversing the decision. It is really not right that the Committee should be left for one moment under the impression that these decisions are final.


Would the hon. and learned Gentleman be prepared, on behalf of the Government, to put a Clause into this Bill which would make that judgment the law of the land? I should have no objection to that.


One thing at a time. I have been expressly asked. On the last occasion, when, unfortunately, I was unable to be here, many Members of the House, expressed dissatisfaction that the Attorney-General was not here to answer this point, and when I am answering this point it is a little hard to be asked to answer another. My right hon. Friend said there was a risk of £18,000,000 under this Bill. I concur entirely, not only with what he said but with the figures he gave. There is the gravest risk. The Committee should have in its mind that £18,000,000 is at stake in this matter, and it will not do to hide behind the Bristol Channel cases. There is another matter which has been put forward. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Member for Ealing has had to leave the Committee, because he did make some observations to which I must refer. It is the practice in every Parliament to abuse the Attorney-General, and I am fortunate in this case that the two Attorney-Generals that have been abused have not been me but my two predecessors, who, unfortunately, are not here able to defend themselves. I am going to try to defend them both, because a very unfair and unwarrantable attack has been made upon them. According to my view, the attacks upon them were, really, without foundation at all. The suggestion made about my predecessor is, that application having been made in October, 1922, the Attorney-General of the day neglected the matter until January, 1924, and took no notice of it. He waited for nearly 18 months and then, finally, thought fit or proper to give a fiat. In October the Attorney-General of 1922 was asked to give a fiat. At that time this company had lodged proceedings already in the War Compensation Court. He wanted a fiat for another set of proceedings in another Court to go on at the same time as proceedings in the War Compensation Court. The Attorney-General of the day said he could not see his way to advise His Majesty to grant the fiat while the proceedings were going on, but directly they were abandoned he would grant the fiat. From that day until January, 1924, the Attorney-General never had a message from the company of any kind. They never took the trouble to answer him or to tell him anything about it, and for my right hon. Friend who has left the Committee to have left us under the impression that my predecessor acted in such a way as that seems to me to be unfortunate, and though I am happily, for the first time, not defending myself but someone else, I am glad to have the opportunity of making it clear. My right hon. Friend made another observation about this which was equally unfair. He said he was asked to give a fiat in July, and did not give it until October. Personal feeling may creep in, and possibly other persons have suffered also, but if the Attorney-General stays in the Law Courts and does his work at once, he is blamed for being there, and if he waits, because he is pressed with other duties, and does not give it at once, he is blamed for being here and not being these. On 17th July, just before the Long Vacation, the Attorney-General gave the fiat, and I do not think anyone can say there was any unreasonable delay, as nothing could be done during the vacation.

Another very serious attack was made on the Department by the same right hon. Gentleman in regard to Marshall Company. It is quite untrue. They were not misled in any way, and the only reason why the Marshall Company delayed was because they did not take advantage of the Attorney-General's suggestion made to them 18 months before. Those are the two legal matters which have been raised. One is the question of the Indemnity Act. With real seriousness I repeat my warning. I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Hartlepools, if he thinks proper to intervene in the Debate again, will emphasise my warning. These decisions were the decisions of a learned Judge of first instance. They were decisions given with deliberation. There is nothing to prevent other people starting proceedings except that decision, and there is nothing to prevent the Court of Appeal or the House of Lords dealing afresh with them any time they think fit.


They do not touch the Amendment.


It is no good saying they do not touch the Amendment. It has already been pointed out that they do not touch the Amendment, but when hon. Members are being asked to record their votes they ought not to be allowed to remain under a misapprehension.

One word about the Amendment. Anyone who cares to could find previous utterances of most Members on these benches, and of myself, expressing the greatest disapproval of retrospective legislation. Everyone agrees with that. I have spoken as strongly as anyone, but that has nothing to do with what we are considering now. When my predecessor, speaking at this box on the Money Resolution, called attention to the importance of not breaking pledges he said, inasmuch as definite pledges have been given with regard to the milk case by the Government as to what they would do, they ought to be carried out. In my view I say deliberately it would be a gross breach of faith to other persons who are interested in this matter if this Amendment was passed. The figures given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing were absolutely wild in my estimation. The only cases I am dealing with which were started before March, 1922, were three cases, one of which has been abandoned, and the other two together only involved the small sum of £20,000. In March, 1922, when persons obviously were considering their position, quite properly, with regard to this legislation, a statement was made by the then President of the Board of Trade, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin), and in another place, where there was a discussion, the leaders or high representatives of both parties, Lord Birkenhead and Lord Buckmaster, made observations to the same effect, and in July, 1922, this Bill was actually introduced. There can be no question in the mind, I am sure, of everyone who really wants to deal with the matter impartially that it would be a cruel injustice to men who relied upon the promise of the then President of the Board of Trade, and a declaration made, not in a speech outside the House, but from this box, that this legislation was going to be introduced, should be told to-morrow, "You who trusted the President of the Board of Trade and the Government and held your hand are to be put now in such a position that if you had disbelieved him and gone on with your actions you would have recovered the money." I urge this not as a party question, because this really does not affect my Government at all. It is a question of what is the right and fair thing to do. We know the position, that every one of these people would go home to-morrow and say, "We have been swindled. If only we had not trusted Mr. Baldwin when he made his observations with the weight of the Government behind him, and really with the weight of the House behind him!" because at that time no one could doubt that if the Bill had been introduced next day it would have passed at once.


Why assume that?


One knows the majority there was in the House at that time and no one except the hon. and learned Gentleman had the slightest doubt that they would have passed it. I am trying to urge what I believe to be the real duty of everyone in the House, to see that these people are not allowed really to feel that they have been cheated, because it would have been grossly unfair—


What harm would it do them?


I do not know that that is quite a proper question to ask. All I know is that I have known many people who have thought they had been cheated and did not seem any the better for it. We are obliged to see that they are not cheated. I urge on the Committee for these reasons not to allow this Amendment to be carried but to insist on seeing that fair play is done to all these people.


We have listened to an exceedingly ingenious speech from the Attorney-General which has singularly little to do with the Amendment. He declines to discuss the general question of retrospective legislation on the ground that it does not really arise on the Amend- ment. He says that was dealt with on the Second Reading. When he comes more particularly to the Amendment, instead of meeting it he discusses the general ground of the Bill. What is the effect of the Amendment? It says all claims made after 31st August, 1922, are barred. It is only validating claims which have been made before that date. What is the good of talking about giving a grave warning about the existing law? We are not considering the existing law apart from the Bill. We are considering this Amendment. I entirely agree with what the Attorney-General has said, and since he has asked me to, I will gladly support the warning he has given. Judges, like everyone else, are fallible. The Judge has decided that these claims made after 31st August, 1922, are barred, but it is only the decision of a Judge of First Instance. Anyone who knows anything about the law knows that the law is somewhat uncertain. I fully agree with the Attorney-General that it is possible that either in the Court of Appeal or in the House of Lords the decisions might be reversed, but that has nothing to do with this point. We are prepared to put it in the Bill that the judgment given by that Judge is the law of the land. To remove all possible doubt, let it be quite clear that claims made after 31st August, 1922, are barred. We concede that for the purpose of this Amendment. Then what do you do with claims made before 31st August, 1922? I think the Attorney-General must realise that his observations with regard to the possibility of reversing the decision of the learned Judge are nothing to the point. That being so, I should have liked to hear some answer to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing. The Attorney-General has not dealt with them at all. The right hon. Gentleman asked that the Committee should be informed as to the figures involved. It is no good repeating the £18,000,000 which we have heard about before. The £18,000,000 was on the basis of the whole thing being open. How much is involved? How many claims were made before August, 1922? On the occasion of the last Debate the right hon. Gentleman, who had the figures from some source which I do not remember at present, said there were only five claims. I do not know whether that is right or not. I presume the amount involved is £100,000 or thereabouts—a comparatively small sum.


One alone is £250,000.


I wonder if the Attorney-General could tell me what is the gross figure of the claims made before August, 1922.


Approximately £400,000 in ships alone.


Are there any, and, if so, how many claims other than shipping? I believe there are none. I have not gone into the matter, but even the face value of the claims is less than £500,000, and if this Amendment is passed you can only deal with £500,000, and to talk about £18,000,000 on this Amendment is really nothing to the point at all. It is said that it is unfair to pass this Amendment, because by doing so you place people who were vigilant to protect their rights in a better position than those persons who rested upon a statement in Parliament and were too lazy to do anything, or too trustful. The majority of this House consists of private Members, although scattered about our benches there are eminent Ministers and ex-Ministers, and it will be a very evil day for the legislation of this House if it is to be thought that any Minister or any Government, however eminent or however strongly they may be entrenched, can treat this House as a mere registering authority: a House which is bound to pass any Act of Parliament which the Minister may choose to recommend. It is not a fact, and I sincerely hope it will never be a fact. There is a world of difference between the statement of a Minister given in absolute good faith—no one questions that—and an Act of Parliament. A man applying ordinary common sense and with a knowledge of the law of England is not entitled to allow time to slip by or to allow time to rip, if I may use the expression, and then to claim to be put in as good a position as those who took active steps to assert their rights.

We are dealing with a comparatively small sum of money, but we are dealing with what is a fundamental and vital principle, a principle which it may be very important, I say this advisedly, to bear in mind in years to come. The Courts have pronounced a decision. I am not concerned with the merits of the case. I rather agree with the late President of the Board of Trade, who said on a previous occasion that there was not much to be said about the merits of the case. I have no doubt that these shipowners were doing very well. The vital principle is that the Courts have pronounced their decision, and they have in one case adjudged that £34,000 is due to the litigant, and he has judgment for that amount. The Attorney-General, in the case of Carr v. Bride, in the last House of Commons, asked the then Attorney-General whether there was any precedent for what was being done, and I now ask him, in turn, what precedent he finds for this House passing an Act of Parliament to reverse a judgment which has already been given in favour of a litigant? I believe that he may search for a long time without finding any precedent. It would be a most evil day if this House interfered in this way when judgment has been given. I therefore support the Amendment. It deals with a sum the face value of which is £500,000, but anyone who knows anything about litigation knows that the face value is generally a good deal higher than the actual value. We are dealing with a question of vital principle, which concerns Members in all parts of the House. It is not a party question, and I hope the House will take its stand and will see to it that this most unfortunate precedent which is being set up in this case is not allowed to stand.


I join with other hon. Members in expressing the misgiving which one feels as to the position which the Government have taken up on this question. The Attorney-General has based his claim, as far as I can understand, upon a pledge which was given by the present Leader of the Opposition when he was President of the Board of Trade. He based his argument on the fact that the Government of that day had a very large majority and that they could carry anything. I happened to be in that Parliament, and I know that there was probably no Government that ever existed where there was more independence of thought among the supporters of the Government. Continually, Debates came forward in which the view of the Government was not accepted, and they had either to withdraw or they were defeated, as happened on several occasions. Although I was a supporter of the Government, I voted over 100 times against that Government. Such a position would not be possible in this House of Commons or in the last House of Commons.

I am not going to enter into legal arguments with the Attorney-General, because I am not a lawyer; I approach this question from the point of view of the ordinary business man. Amongst the business community there is a great deal of misgiving as to the way that Governments treat traders. During the War Orders in Council were issued nearly every five minutes on all sorts of subjects. The Ministry of Food issued frequent Orders which were so complex that no business man could understand them. The action which the Government is taking is not fair to business men. There are many business men who have not the pluck to start actions at law. There are many business men who, like myself, would run miles in order to avoid a law action, and they will always pay through the nose to avoid one. Business men want to avoid litigation as far as possible. As to the amount which has been mentioned by the Attorney-General, it does not frighten me in the least. I do not care whether it is £18,000,000 or eighteen-pence. There seems to be a very serious question of policy involved. I approach the matter from the point of view of people having their just rights given to them. Once an action has been started I do not think that it is within the province of this House to interfere. I hope this matter will be pressed to a Division, and I shall have no hesitation in going into the Lobby in favour of the Amendment. This is not the only time that the present Government have taken up the attitude of adopting retrospective legislation. They have done it in the Finance Bill, and as a matter of principle I object to it.


I have no connection with litigation on this subject. This is a subject which has nothing whatever to do with party. Such view as I have formed has been dictated solely because it seems to be a just and fair one. The Bill as it stands differs from the Amendment only as to the period of time. During the War, the Government made what are now admittedly illegal exactions. In respect of those exactions certain legal claims arose. In the ordinary course these claims would have crystallised into something payable by the Government. Other wrongs were committed during the War. Officials of the Government made many mistakes, as was inevitable, and in 1920 an Indemnity Act was passed which said, "In respect of wrongs which you in your hurry have committed during the War, you, the officials, shall not be mulcted in damages, but the person who has suffered a wrong shall obtain compensation." That Act said that where an official by neglect or omission had caused damage to the subject, the subject should not suffer nor should the official suffer, but that the Government should pay compensation. That was fair. A period had to be fixed. You could not keep open for all time this right of compensation that was given by the Indemnity Act and, therefore, it was said, expressly, "though we now substitute for your action in a court of law your right to compensation, we fix a period, and if you do not bestir yourself within that period your claim goes." The period fixed was 12 months after the expiration of the War. That was before August, 1922.

Wherever the subject had a claim by reason of a mistake made by an official during the War, he was entitled to obtain compensation provided he bestirred himself before August, 1922. I want to know why we are to draw a distinction between a subject having a claim because of the error of an official, and a subject having a claim because of the error of the Government itself. The Amendment simply says that the same right that the Indemnity Act gave to the individual who suffered wrong by the mistake of an official shall also be given to the individual who has suffered wrong by the mistake of the Government, and the period shall be up to August, 1922. That seems to me to be common justice. The Attorney-General has made use of an argument that fell familiarly upon my ears, because I happened to be in the last Parliament when, on the Increase of Rent Act, the Attorney-General then said, "We are not depriving these tenants of such rights as they have, except after a period when they ought to have known that they had no rights." I asked, "Why ought they to have known that they had no rights?" The answer was, "Because Mr. Bonar Law said so."

It is certainly a startling proposition to be told that I, who have rights by law, as these men have, which rights can only be taken from me by an Act of Parliament, am to be treated as though I lost my rights long before the Act of Parliament, and from a date when a gentleman, who might or might not be Prime Ministers, says, "When we are in power we will bring in an Act of Parliament, and we shall have a majority and that majority will carry that Act through; therefore you can take it that what is being done to-day was done in March, 1922, because Mr. Baldwin is said to have said that he would do it then." It is a monstrous proposition. I know that it is a bit of fiction, and for Heaven's sake let us keep it a pious fiction, that we are supposed to assemble in this Parliament, this talking House, this discussing House, because our arguments are assumed to have some weight. It is not to be supposed that the head of the Government registers a conclusion and then, putting the cart before the horse, we are to come into the House and fire off our arguments long after the conclusion has been come to.

We must proceed—it is only in accordance with our own dignity—as if no change in the law has taken place until the Act of Parliament has obtained the Royal Assent, and if we depart from that and substitute the declaration of a Minister, made months before, as to what he will do, then it will lead to very serious difficulties. When I made a few observations on this subject the other night, the President of the Board of Trade said in effect, "All the heroics of the hon. Member for South Shields are beside the mark because he declaims against retrospective legislation, and what we are doing is only validating the illegal act of the Government from the date when persons knew that it was illegal." Is that so? Years before this Bill, before the declaration of the Government, even before the Indemnity Bill, some of these illegal exactions had been made. From the moment they were made and existed, in the person from whom they were taken there was a right crystallising into a debt due by the Government. This Bill is then produced, saying: "Mr. Subjects, The rights that you had three or four years ago are swept completely away," and for anyone to say that that is not retrospective legislation is to talk nonsense.

The Indemnity Act recognised that great allowance must be made for errors committed by officials and heads of Departments in the hurry and confusion of war, but the Indemnity Act recognised also that it is not right, because you excuse the person who makes the fault, to punish the person who suffers the loss, and, therefore, it says, "We will not wipe out the compensation that flows from the fault, but we will transfer the burden from the official to the Government," and it says, "Any person who is lucky enough to find himself now with a claim arising out of an error made by an official has its compensation." But an unfortunate person who has a claim arising out of the fault of the whole Government is to have no claim. Can anyone justify such a distinction? And all that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Ealing says is: "You have told us you are going to wipe out these claims, and the fair thing to do is to put these persons in exactly the same position as you put those who are claimants by reason of the errors of officials." Put the wrong done by the Government on exactly the same footing as the wrong done by officials and let no claims exist in respect of either wrong unless they were made before August, 1922.


Amid all the legal arguments which we have heard it is difficult for a mere layman to comprehend the real position, and I would like your ruling as to whether it would be permissible for me to extend the scope of this Amendment to a later date, in view of the fact that we have heard, I think from the Attorney-General, this afternoon that a decision on the matter was given in one of our Courts. I say this because there are other claimants in connection with this matter as well as those who might come under the date mentioned in the Amendment. Personally I want to say emphatically that I am not so much concerned about the £18,000,000 that may be involved in the total, but I am concerned that as a country we shall do the right thing, whatever it costs, and the principle which I have in mind arises from the fact that there is a number of people who have taken a certain course at law in connection with Petitions of Right down to dates in 1923, and I am convinced that these people ought to be included in any advantage that may arise even if the Amendment be accepted. I would make an appeal that the same treatment should be extended to everybody concerned regardless of what it may cost.


Will the Government not consider putting into the Bill the date 31st August, 1922, as the last date on which claims can be considered, to give legal effect to the decision of the High Court? That will get out of the legal difficulty in this case. The other point is as to the total of the claims made. The largest claim is that of McAndrews for £223,000, and I believe that that claim is barred out. I would be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us that.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Webb)

In spite of the ingenuity displayed in endeavouring to put a new face on the discussion, we are going over and over again the ground which we have already gone over on three successive occasions. The suggestion to introduce into the Bill the date fixed under the Indemnity Act, and to confine the operation of the Bill to claims made after that date, would knock the stuffing out of the Bill.


Of course.


That means that the decision of the House in voting for the Second Reading of the Bill and for the Money Resolution and the Report of the Money Resolution will be rendered null and void.


The right hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent us. Under the Bill, with the Amendment put in, all the claims for the £18,500,000 would be barred out, and there would be no possibility of the fears of the Attorney-General being realised. There is less than £200,000 at stake in this matter.


I would ask the Committee to come to grips with this question. I will try to answer some of the fresh criticisms on this point. The reason why we have to take up this Bill, which is no child of ours, is simply in pursuance of our duty as a Government to protect the taxpayer against having to pay these sums. The suggestion now made is that there is no liability for claims made after the date of the Indemnity Act. It is now said that, if we accept the Amendment, we do debar these claims. I will come back to that, but may I ask, Is not that retrospective legislation? Is not that wiping out all the potential claims for £18,000,000? Hon. Members are proposing to make the Measure retrospective so far as these claims are concerned.


We are proposing to limit the retrospectiveness by making the Bill less retrospective.


I will now recall the words which I used when I referred to the hon. Member's heroics. I think now that that word was not happily chosen in view of the fact that the hon. Member is now giving away thirty-five-thirty-sixths of the claims, but he is making a final rally on the narrow edge of the half-dozen claims which are regarded as sacrosanct. Why are these people being given preference over the large number whose claims amount to £18,000,000? The hon. Member says that it is because the owners were vigilant and proceedings were instituted before the date fixed by the Act of Indemnity expired, and that is why he invites us to do what is a very arbitrary act by making this distinction. I want to suggest why the Committee must not do that arbitrary act and make the distinction between these half-a-dozen claims and the others. Of all the people who paid these charges under protest, out of the large profits which they were permitted to make, a half-dozen shipowners have gone back on their bargain and, sticking to the profits which they made, have now claimed that they should be repaid the 15 per cent. which they willingly paid and which they clamoured to be allowed to pay.


Is it not a fact that some of the shipping firms are actually in liquidation?

8.0 P.M.


My hon. Friend knows perfectly well—much more intimately from experience than I know—that it is quite possible for a person, or firm, to make very considerable profits, and then to go into liquidation. What evidence is it that enormous profits were not made out of this transaction, that a firm is in liquidation? The point is this: these people went back on their bargain because they thought they could get back their 15 per cent. The other shipowners did not go back on their bargain. In regard to the case of the brewery firm, there were dozens of brewery firms who were given this special permit to brew over and above the normal quantity of beer for the public convenience and their own exceeding profit. They have all accepted the situation. This one firm alone puts in a claim to have its money back. There is no question of going into liquidation. They made this huge profit. If you are going to have equity, you cannot afford to do this very great wrong, which hon. Members propose to do by retrospective legislation, to all the firms who have not gone back on their bargain. If the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) is prepared to throw £400,000 away—which is the amount involved—I am not prepared to do so. But that is not all. We could not in justice refuse to consider the cases of those people who have abstained from suing the Government merely out of faith in the Government's pledge, if we now go back on our pledge, and admit the claim of these half-dozen firms.


How do you know what their action was?


Their action followed on the pledge.


Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to put the argument to the Committee, that if one Act follows on another, the second Act is a consequence of the first?


I said nothing of the kind. I do not propose to give way again to the hon. Member. All I said was that a pledge had been given, and following that the firms did not sue the Crown. That fact cannot be denied. If you go into it closely, you will find that there were communications between some of these firms and the Crown, and we are bound in equity to consider the case of these firms if the House decides that this Bill cannot go through. The action of the Coalition Government was taken up and ratified by the Government that succeeded the Coalition Government, and now—I do not say it does any great credit to us—it has been taken up, and ratified by the present Government. And I venture to say that any Government that may come in, when it goes into the question, must bring in this sort of legislation. I have really nothing further to say. This Bill has been worn threadbare. While, on the one hand, the character of the people concerned is not the point, we are entitled to say that those who seek the benefit of the law must at any rate come into Court with clean hands, and equity. These people have gone back on their bargains, and their conduct has not been such as to entitle them to greater consideration than other people, who have not acted in that way, receive. I put it as mildly as I can. I would beg the Committee, therefore, to let us now dispose of this

Amendment. We must go on with the Bill. We cannot give it up.


May I point out that I am not asking for equity in this matter. We are asking for law. I am not a lawyer. I am asking that the law may take its course. It is the right hon. Gentleman who talks about equity and proceeds to do wrong.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 65; Noes, 188.

Division No. 76.] AYES. [8.7 p.m.
Ackroyd, T. R. Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury) Raffan, P. W.
Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.) Hobhouse, A. L. Raffety, F. W.
Alstead, R. Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford
Apsley, Lord Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor) Rathbone, Hugh R.
Aske, Sir Robert William Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Rees, Sir Beddoe
Berkeley, Captain Reginald Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools) Remer, J. R.
Birkett, W. N. Laverack, F. J. Royle, C.
Bramsdon, Sir Thomas Lessing, E. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)
Burnie, Major J. (Bootle) McCrae, Sir George Simpson, J. Hope
Cassels, J. D. Maden, H. Stranger, Innes Harold
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Mansel, Sir Courtenay Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William
Darbishire, C. W. Marks, Sir George Croydon Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)
Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh) Millar, J. D. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Dickie, Captain J. P. Morse, W. E. Thornton, Maxwell R.
Dixey, A. C. Moulton, Major Fletcher Vivian, H.
Duckworth, John Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley) Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Owen, Major G. Wise, Sir Fredric
Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.) Parry, Thomas Henry Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Finney, V. H. Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)
Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H. Phillipps, Vivian TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Franklin, L. B. Pilkington, R. R. Mr. Harney and Mr. Leif Jones.
Gorman, William Pringle, W. M. R.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke Costello, L. W. J. Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Cove, W. G. Hacking, Captain Douglas H.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)
Alden, Percy Crittall, V. G. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) Harbord, Arthur
Ayles, W. H. Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. Hartington, Marquess of
Baker, Walter Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon
Banton, G. Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Hastings, Sir Patrick
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertlliery) Dickson, T. Hastings, Somerville (Reading)
Barnes, A. Doyle, Sir N. Grattan Haycock, A. W.
Barnett, Major Richard W. Dukes, C. Hayday, Arthur
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Duncan, C. Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)
Batey, Joseph Dunnico, H. Henderson, T. (Glasgow)
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfld.)
Berry, Sir George Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern) Henn, Sir Sydney H.
Black, J. W. Egan, W. H. Hennessy, Major J. R. G.
Blundell, F. N. Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Hillary, A. E.
Bondfield, Margaret Forestier-Walker, L. Hirst, G. H.
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Hoffman, P. C.
Brittain, Sir Harry Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.)
Broad, F. A. Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North) Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)
Bromfield, William Gavan-Duffy, Thomas Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.
Buckingham, Sir H. Gillett, George M. Isaacs, G. A.
Buckie, J. Gosling, Harry Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)
Burman, J. B. Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome) James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) John, William (Rhondda, West)
Cape, Thomas Greene, W. P. Crawford Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)
Charleton, H. C. Greenall, T. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)
Church, Major A. G. Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.)
Clarke, A. Greenwood, William (Stockport) Kennedy, T.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Kindersley, Major G. M.
Compton, Joseph Groves, T. King, Captain Henry Douglas
Cope, Major William Grundy, T. W. Lamb, J. Q.
Lansbury, George Nixon, H. Sutton, J. E.
Law, A. O'Grady, Captain James Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon, S.)
Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Thurtle, E.
Lawson, John James Pease, William Edwin Tillett, Benjamin
Leach, W. Perkins, Colonel E. K. Tinker, John Joseph
Lee, F. Perring, William George Toole, J.
Lindley, F. W. Ponsonby, Arthur Tout, W. J.
Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Potts, John S. Turner, Ben
Lorimer, H. D. Purcell, A. A. Varley, Frank B.
Loverseed, J. F. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Wallhead, Richard C.
Lowth, T. Ritson, J. Warne, G. H.
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmstord) Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
MacDonald, R. Ropner, Major L. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
McEntee, V. L. Roundell, Colonel R. F. Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Royce, William Stapleton Weir, L. M.
March, S. Russell-Wells, Sir S. (London Univ.) Welsh, J. C.
Marley, James Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West) Whiteley, W.
Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton) Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange) Wignall, James
Middleton, G. Shepperson, E. W. Williams, Lt.-Col. T. S. B. (Kennington)
Mills, J. E. Sherwood, George Henry Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)
Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden) Shinwell, Emanuel Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Montague, Frederick Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Morel, E. D. Snell, Harry Windsor, Walter
Muir, John W. Spence, R. Wright, W.
Murray, Robert Stamford, T. W. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Naylor, T. E. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Sullivan, J. Mr. Spoor and Mr. John Robertson.
Nicholson, O. (Westminster)

Question, "That the Schedule stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.


I think the next Amendment on the Paper in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Leif Jones) is practically the same question. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman wishes to move it?


It refers to practically the same question, and I do not move it.

It being a Quarter past Eight of the Clock, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 4.

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